As a young and ambitious oil rig worker, Maurice Dusseault was a university dropout who got his hands dirty on a northern Albertan rig drilling holes thousands of feet into the earth in search of this precious commodity.

Maurice DusseaultAfter meeting his wife-to-be (Betty), Dusseault returned to school at her urging, enrolling in the University of Alberta’s engineering program. There, his instructor allowed him to take some classes in geology instead of the usual engineering courses. He went on to complete his PhD, focusing on the geological and engineering behaviour of the Athabasca Oil Sands.

Dusseault then completed a five-year professorship at the university and turned down a lucrative job offer during the Alberta oil boom. “My wife asked, ‘Would you be happier?’ It was a simple but probing question, and because I couldn’t answer yes, I didn’t accept the offer.”

“Then I got a call out of the blue from the University of Waterloo, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Dusseault is a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences who has not only established awards, but also contributes to several others, partially inspired by his own hardscrabble beginnings. The Dusseault Bursary in Geology supports students in need from the faculties of Science and Engineering.

With four decades of teaching, running three active companies and some lucrative patents under his belt, Dusseault feels that supporting the next generation of geologists and engineers – especially those facing challenging circumstances – is vital. Skyrocketing rental prices and other high costs of living can negatively impact students as they worry about how to pay for their education.

“Excellence deserves to be rewarded, and that’s why need and merit are the main criteria for these awards,” he added.

Dusseault first started giving back to the UWaterloo community in 1988, supporting both University-wide initiatives and programs specific to his faculty. Recently, he contributed to the Andre Vorauer Memorial Award for students enrolled in an Earth Sciences or Geological Engineering program. Dusseault also supports the Danny Lam Memorial Scholarship, awarded to students interested in climate change and sustainable energy.

After 42 years of service at UWaterloo, Dusseault is retiring later this year. His hope for students receiving his bursary is “success in their program.” He added that UWaterloo does “a particularly fabulous job” of training the technically orientated people Canada needs to manage and engineer major construction, transportation and mining projects.

“My prosperity was built in large part on the activities I’ve partaken in at UWaterloo. Giving some of that back to support students is important. I’ve had students in financial distress, like a single mom who couldn’t afford tuition, but sometimes we can find a way,” said Dusseault.

He offers the following advice to other faculty, staff and retiree (FSR) donors. “If your giving is focused on achieving the outcomes that you personally feel are important, then do so. For example, if you want to support an undergrad student working in environmental engineering, then aim your gift at that department. We all benefited from an excellent system at UWaterloo, and that privilege should be carefully nurtured.”